Updated on 11/03/2013 12:25AM

Breeders' Cup Distaff: Beholder makes it look easy

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Justin N. Lane
Beholder wins the Breeders' Cup Distaff by 4 1/4 lengths under Gary Stevens. Defending champion Royal Delta finished fourth and Princess of Sylmar sixth.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Beholder and jockey Gary Stevens turned a race billed as one of the most evenly contested of Breeders’ Cup 2013 into a tour de force.

Beholder crushed the $2 million BC Distaff by 4 1/4 lengths, humbling a top-class field Friday at Santa Anita. Her rivals never really showed up.

The favorite, Royal Delta, a two-time Distaff winner, was left reeling. She finished fourth, beaten more than eight lengths. “She just didn’t run,” Royal Delta’s jockey, Mike Smith, said. “When I asked her, there was nothing there.”

Princess of Sylmar, a winner of four straight Grade 1 races, stumbled at the break and never made a move. She finished sixth.

Close Hatches rallied to second. Authenticity, the surprise pacesetter, held third. The 4-5-6 finishers were Royal Delta, Street Girl, and Princess of Sylmar.

[BREEDERS' CUP FRIDAY: Video replays and race results]

The star of the show, and of BC Friday, was Beholder. Trained by Richard Mandella and owned by B. Wayne Hughes, Beholder ($7.60 third choice) defeated the field with a three-wide trip and gave 50-year-old unretired jockey Stevens his ninth Breeders’ Cup win and his first since he rode War Chant to victory in the 2000 BC Mile.

Although it was expected that either Royal Delta or Beholder would make the lead in the Distaff, it was Authenticity who broke running and set the pace inside. Royal Delta was lapped to her outside, with Beholder three wide just off their flank.

Nearing the three-eighths pole, Beholder loomed outside Royal Delta. A two-time champion, Royal Delta offered no response and merely went one-paced to the wire.

Even on the first turn, Smith figured that he might be in trouble with Royal Delta. “She switched leads, and she didn’t take off. I thought maybe they were going too quick,” Smith said.

They weren’t. Royal Delta dropped away into the far turn as Beholder and Stevens loomed up three wide. Stevens sat motionless, even as Beholder entered the stretch and began to widen her lead.

At that point, it was over. Rosario, riding Close Hatches, thought for a moment he could catch the winner. “That horse hit another gear; she didn’t stop,” Rosario said.

Beholder kept her record perfect in Santa Anita routes – 5 for 5. The 3-year-old filly has won 8 of 12 and has improved since early in the year.

At the Kentucky Oaks in May, Beholder lost her composure going to the gate and finished second to Princess of Sylmar. But after a summer off and repeated schooling, Beholder has turned into a consummate pro.

Her works leading into the Distaff were sensational, and she ran accordingly. She pressed the pace racing in the clear. It was the perfect spot, Stevens said.

“I had a smile on my face going into the first turn,” Stevens said. “She listened to what I wanted to do and the lessons she has been taught.”

Stevens kept her forwardly placed, in the clear. “She has always had natural speed, but we have always tried to teach her to relax and finish,” Mandella said.

Good thing, because Beholder has learned to harness her speed and also provide a finishing kick. On the far turn, Stevens sensed victory. “My filly was traveling so easily,” he said.

The opening half-mile was in 46.30 seconds, and into the far turn, Stevens let her move up outside. Authenticity was under pressure through six furlongs in 1:10.28. Beholder opened up into the lane and was gone. The final time was 1:47.77.

Beholder is expected to race next year at 4. Beholder’s owner, Hughes, cracked, “If I can get a trainer, I’ll do it.”

Stevens, who returned this season from a seven-year hiatus from riding, said, “If Beholder is going to stay in training as a 4-year-old, Gary Stevens will be here, too.”

Close Hatches is expected to run next year, and so is Princess of Sylmar. Plans were not immediately announced for Royal Delta, but her disappointing effort suggests she may be ready for her second career as a broodmare.

Authenticity and Street Girl are scheduled to be sold in upcoming broodmare auctions.

Payoffs
$2 exacta (5-3), $42.60
$1 trifecta (5-3-2), $87.80
10-cent super (5-3-2-4), $21.99
$2 double (8-5), $53
$1 pick three (12-8-5), $160
50-cent pick four (4-12-8-5), $403.90
$2 pick six (6 of 6) (5-7-4-12-8-5), $106,839.80
$2 pick six (5 of 6) (5-7-4-12-8-5), $1,128.80